April 13 (UPI) -- Indonesia's Muslims observed the start of Ramadan on Tuesday with socially distanced gatherings amid an ongoing rise of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is a month-long period when Muslims show self-restraint. Followers of Islam engage in daylong fasting and show greater devotion to religion with prayer.
On Tuesday, the Indonesia government allowed mosques to open for Ramadan prayers with distancing guidelines in place, India's PTI news agency reported.
The loosening of guidelines comes after last year's government decision to implement large-scale social restrictions, or PSBB. Indonesia has reported the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. Total cases surpassed 1.5 million Monday.
During last year's Ramadan, Indonesia banned all religious activities. This year, shopping malls and cafes have been allowed to stay open, but areas of the country designated "red zones" and "orange zones" are urging residents to pray at home.
Zones not under restrictions are to allow Tarawih prayer services, performed at night during Ramadan, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
In Jakarta, the capital, the government disinfected 317 mosques. Large migrations are being banned, however. Muslims in Indonesia celebrate the end of Ramadan, known as Lebaran or Idul Fitri, with visits to their hometowns. Returning home is prohibited this year, the government said.
Religious organizations in Indonesia also are doing their part to help local authorities with vaccine efforts.
The Indonesia Ulema Council said COVID-19 vaccinations underway do not violate the rules of fasting during Ramadan, and urged Muslims to receive inoculations during the period.
About 87% of the Indonesia's 270 million people are Muslim.